ABTA, the Association of the British Travel Agents, yesterday confirmed that it will be holding its 2003 convention in Palma, despite initial fears of a boycott over the controversial tourist tax. The decision by ABTA, which was also considering Paris, was welcomed by the Balearic tourist industry last night. The convention which is the biggest of its kind in Europe, is being seen as the chance for the Balearics to re-launch itself as one of the world's number one holiday destinations and use the event to project the region's new image. As many as 1.800 delegates will attend the convention from October 31 to November 3. Already 1'400 hotel rooms, 350 of which are five star have been blocked off by ABTA for delegates. ABTA said yesterday that it has been working with the Spanish Tourist Board, Turespaña, which invited ABTA to return to Palma for its annual convention, for the past few months to secure the Auditorium for the business sessions and the necessary accommodation in the city. Stephen Bath, ABTA's President said yesterday “ABTA has held its annual convention in Palma every ten years since 1973 and we are delighted to continue the Majorcan tradition. It is the number one favourite destination with British holidaymakers and our members spend a significant amount of time sending clients to a beautiful and friendly island. As a result, the Palma convention is always an extremely popular choice with delegates.” ABTA has already arranged flights with Iberia and GO and is still negotiating with other airlines for more seats and charter options from regional airports. ABTA's convention-co-ordinator Keith Betton said “no other destination has hosted our convention four times. Palma is an ideal venue for us - combining good conference facilities and hotels together with golf courses and evening venues. “The ABTA convention is the largest conference of its type in Europe and we are hoping that at least 1'800 delegates will come.” The director of Ibatur, the Balearic Tourism Institute, Tiffany Blackman, said she was very pleased to hear the announcement, “it's an excellent opportunity for the British travel agents to experience the variety and quality of the products the Balearic tourist industry offers its clients at first hand.” The ABTA conventions can really help to make or break a destination as the entire spotlight of the travel trade will be on Palma at the end of next October. The Balearics will have the best possible opportunity to show off its new image and silence the critics providing the tourist industry and the local authorities make the maximum use of the next 14 months. This year's annual convention is being held in Egypt in October and now that Palma has been confirmed as the 2003 destination, a member from the Balearic Ministry for Tourism will be expected to make an Olympics-style acceptance speech on the final night of the Egypt convention. Betton said yesterday that 1'400 people are attending the Egypt convention and far more will come to Palma next year “it couldn't have come at a better time for the Balearics.”